So I was in prison for eight years. That’s been established already in numerous posts. I’m sure there’s no shortage of crazy violent Big House stories here in blogville, so I try not to really add to the whole spectacular canon too much. I mean, yeah, I did time and yeah I saw some crazy shit…but really if you’re looking for some hardcore fucked up blood and guts and tough guys stories I suggest you watch one of those prison doc tv shows after hours on MSNBC or read a book about that stuff. I’d suggest In The Belly of The Beast by Jack Abbot for that type of shit, or if you want to read an excellent book on prison (and the criminal underworld) try The Day is Born of Darkness byMikhail Dyomin. Of course, it’s written by a Russian, and is about being a criminal and incarceration in a Russian prison under the Soviets- an experience which would make your average American inmate shit himself and then hang up with his bootlaces after two days.
I read the Dyomin book while I was locked up, and in it he wrote of his nickname while in prison-Chuma, short for Chumavoy, a teller of tall tales. Probably the most overlooked aspect of doing time is the storys. I mean, everybody wants to go on about that guy that got stabbed up, or the one who got wheeled out to the hospital with a flourescent lighting rod sticking out of his ass, or any number of things like that. Not very many people will go into just some of the amazing storys you hear, or the amazing storytellers. Given, not a lot of motherfuckers pay much mind to actually listening to someone tell a story in there, they have television to give them entertainment and babysitting after all. I never had a tv the whole time I was down, never especially wanted one. I had a radio and crazy fucking cellmates like Metal Mike for entertainment.
Metal Mike was a chumavoy. In fact he was Thee Chumavoy of chumavoys. He was from a small, and I mean small town in southern Pennsylvania called Redline. Everybody called him Metal Mike because he had a metal plate in his head. Metal Mike had been in a car accident. Actually, to hear the whole story he had been in a number of accidents. These type of things happen with frequency when you’re like Metal Mike and drink a fifth of Wild Turkey before attempting to pilot your car, or motorcycle, or ATV. All those vehicles he had crashed with some degree of frequency. Yes, a tractor too.
I guess at this point of the story it’s a no brainer to illuminate the reader on the circumstances of Metal Mikes incarceration. It’s a no brainer, because Metal Mike was doing state time for drunk driving. In Pa., when the judge gets sick of being nice over multiple driving while intoxicated cases, you get sent to the big leagues. And thus there was Metal Mike, habitual drunk driving offender.
But this motherfucker could spin a yarn like no human being I had ever met. Epic multi hour tales. My favorites were the ones about his pet raccoon back home and the one about the keg party he and his brother threw in high school when their parents went away for the weekend. And it wasn’t just a keg party. It was the end all fucking be all of keg parties. Involving half the population of the town and an attempt to cook a deer on the bonfire raging on the front lawn. Oh yeah, the shit was that good of a story. The deer was butchered and frozen already, but they decided to pull it out of the chest freezer and treat the party goers to some venison. The frozen Bambi’s dad parts were hurled a top the blaze to get them to thaw, of course. He’s telling me this shit as if its common sense. You just throw the meat on the fire. Sure, sounds perfectly logical. Worked for our stone age ancestors.
By the time the cops showed up the smell of burning carcass was well in the air, the house was destroyed and there were fifty beered up people standing around a heap of burning meat singing along to a weepy rendition of Freebird being played out of the 8 track deck in Metal Mike’s brothers 75 Chevy Nova.
Only he told it better. A much, much fuller length version, replete with exquisite detail and subplots. Also add energetic gesticulations and wild eyes. Dude should have gone on tour as a spoken word artist, really. The performance was well worth paying money for and all it cost me was a few smokes and five cups of instant coffee. I kept feeding him smokes and coffee when he’d start to flag, he’d slow down and the narrative would start to drag a bit, and I’d mix him another coffee with hot tap water and he’d be off again. He was great.
I heard lots of epic tales in there told by marvelous storytellers, but Metal Mike was the best. Dudes called him a”Burn out” cause you get him going and he’d burn your ears out with stories. But I dug that shit. It was way better than television.
One time when I was playing bass in the prison band we did a show in the gymnasium and Metal Mike told me he was going to do some crazy shit. See, he wasn’t just a good storyteller, this motherfucker was a character. I had no idea what he was going to do, but I knew it would be fucking hilarious. We had two bands really back then-an R&B band, and a rock band. Some of the guys were in both bands, but we always played separate shows since if we both played on the same day our sets would have to be short due to the time alloted by the au-thor-i-tays. Eventhough it could have been a sort of segregation thing, I mean it could have worked out that way and I think thats what the administration was hoping for (the last thing the gaurds and the rest of the zookeepers want is for prisoners of different racial backgrounds to get along, their power and “Care, Custody, and Control” hinges on the divide and conquer method) but it didn’t matter because everybody would just go to see whatever band was playing. But, of course that would freak out the screws even more. They would literally just lock the audience in the gym, scurry up to the hallway “balcony” overlooking everything and stand there trying to look menacing. Not all of them, some of them just looked bored. At any rate though, they were always prepared for some kind of race riot or whatever to jump off during our set.
And we never had much time to play. I think we did like ten or twelve songs each time. Sometimes less depending if we jammed on War Pigs or something for fifteen minutes. But at that show we were playing a couple of Metallica songs, a Skynrd song or two, some song by that band Disturbed, one by Linkin Park that we had a “guest vocalist” for-this short little Puerto Rican dude who should have sang for North Side Kings or some other brutal hardcore band. Fucking dude had lungs and a voice that was a full foot and a half taller than his actual stature. And then there was the Motorhead song, Ace of Spades. We were practicing one day and one of the guitarists started to play it. I was like “Fuk Yeah! Motorhead!” He says “Glad you like it, we’re playing it at our next show. And, oh yeah, you get to sing it too.”
So I’m there that day, in the gym, we run through a few of our songs and people are liking the stuff. I mean, nobody is going off or anything, there’s no spontaneous circle pit action happening. Everybody is just kind of sitting there enjoying the music. Then it comes time for my Motorhead moment. I’d smoked like three handrolled cigarettes back to back in my cell before we played to try and get my voice right for the song-I mean, you just don’t go up and sing Ace of Spades while playing bass to a room full of bona fide felons and sound like a pussy. It’s just not allowed and shit, y’ know in case you ever find yourself in the situation. So I go up to the mic, and I’m nervous as shit-I mean, I’d played in lots of bands before I went to prison and I’d done the occasional backing vocal here and there…but to sing a whole song while playing at the same time I’d never done.
And there’s Metal Mike in the front row. Grinning at me sans teeth. Oh, I forgot to mention. Metal Mike went to the dentist in there and they told him he needed a lot of work. He said “Fuck it, just pull ‘em all out. I’ll get dentures.” And they did. They pulled out his remaining teeth and made him wait for dentures. Which in prison is kind of like waiting for Godot. He only had like eight remaining teeth to lose, but still thats pretty hardcore. Just pull ‘em out I’ll get dentures. After I check on how that deer is cooking on the front lawn.
So we rip into the song. All fear leaves me as I channel the power of Lemmy Fucking Kilmister. I’m at the “Read ‘em and weep, the dead man’s hand again” part and I look and Metal Mike is picking up the chair next to him and slamming it on the gym floor over and over while yelling “THE ACE OF FUCKING SPADES YEAH!!!” at the top of his lungs. Only he wasn’t anunciating it well, cause, you know he didn’t have no teeth. Everybody is looking at him like he just sprouted a head of cabbage atop his neck, but he is fully into it, totally making a spectacle of himself. It was awesome. Nobody knew what to do, not even the gaurds. They just stood on the balcony watching this insane man bashing this chair off the floor. We finish the song. Metal Mike pipes down and just sits there grinning at everybody sans teeth.
Yeah, Metal Mike was a trip. I just had to write about him. I hope he didn’t get out of the joint and get in another car crash and die or something.